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Giant 7-foot sunfish found on Oregon beach turns out to be newly discovered species

In World
June 10, 2024

SEASIDE, Ore. – A massive ocean oddity that washed up on a northern Oregon beach last week turned out to be a recently discovered species of sunfish, according to the local aquarium.

According to the Seaside Aquarium, a 7.3-foot sunfish was found on Gearhart Beach, north of Seaside, Oregon, on June 3.

“Initially, this large, strange looking fish was creating quite a stir on social media and though it was stormy, folks were flocking to the beach to see this unusual fish,” the aquarium said on Facebook.

News of the large fish reached New Zealand, where researcher Marianne Nyegaard quickly identified the marine animal as a different species than the ocean sunfish, or Mola mola. That’s because Nyegaard helped identify and name the hoodwinker sunfish, or Mola tecta. Her research naming the new species was published in 2017.

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“Dubbed a new species hiding in plain sight, it was genetic sampling and eventual observation that contributed to its finding,” the Seaside Aquarium said. “This fish, hiding in plain sight, has most likely been seen/washed ashore in the Pacific Northwest before but was mistaken for the more common, Mola mola.”

According to Britannica, the Mola tecta or hoodwinker sunfish, can grow up to 7.9 feet long and is smaller than the other members of the sunfish family, which can exceed 10 feet. The fish have distinctive features, including a bullet-like shape, tough skin and a small mouth with beaklike teeth.

Hoodwinker sunfish were initially believed to inhabit only the Southern Hemisphere, but these massive fish have recently washed up on U.S. Pacific Ocean beaches. Divers in Monterey Bay photographed two hoodwinked sunfish in 2019 – among the first confirmed sightings of the new species in Central California, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

After the latest sighting in Oregon, Nyegaard contacted Seaside Aquarium for a genetic sample. The aquarium provided more photos, measurements and tissue samples.

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“Through photographs, Marianne confirmed that it was a hoodwinker and that this may be the largest specimen ever sampled,” the aquarium said.

Beachgoers in northern Oregon can see this rare massive fish in person for at least a few more weeks because its tough skin makes it hard for scavengers to puncture.

“It is a remarkable fish and the aquarium encourages people to go see it for themselves,” the Seaside Aquarium said.

Original article source: Giant 7-foot sunfish found on Oregon beach turns out to be newly discovered species

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